We're losing Tallent as athletes hit the wall at AIS
Race walker Jared Tallent and wife Claire - who now coaches the Olympic medallist - contemplate their future during a break at the AIS athletics track. Photo: Melissa Adams
Canberra will lose one of Australia's most successful Olympians with Jared Tallent set to leave the Australian Institute of Sport and move to Adelaide to be closer to family.
The multiple Olympic medal-winning race walker said more departures could follow as a cloud hangs over the future of his sport.
Following a massive review into the nation's unsuccessful London Olympic Games, Athletics Australia head coach Eric Hollingsworth will meet with the other AIS-based race walkers on Wednesday before deciding whether the program will continue in the ACT or be disbanded.
An AIS-based athletics program has long been at the heart of Australia's top track-and-field athletes.
Along with Tallent, the likes of Patrick Johnson, Jane Flemming, Jana Pittman and Robert de Castella all enjoyed success while based in Canberra.
But Australia's poor showing in London led to the development of the Winning Edge program.
As part of Winning Edge, all sports will run their own high-performance programs, instead of the AIS.
Funding will be determined by success and distributed by the AIS.
Athletics Australia will move to a tiered scholarship system that rewards higher-ranked athletes with more money.
If offered a small scholarship by Athletics Australia, Tallent thought there would be little incentive for some race walkers to remain at the institute.
Of the eight race walkers at the AIS, it's believed only three will be offered scholarships.
The walking program has been based at the AIS for 33 years and has claimed five of Australia's last 10 Olympic medals in athletics.
''We've always wanted to move home to be closer to family and now that all this is happening and we're sort of on our own anyway, it just made the decision easier,'' Tallent told The Canberra Times.
Despite being the only male track-and-field athlete to win three Olympic medals since 1900, Tallent has been working without a coach since late last year following Brent Vallance's move to Melbourne.
His wife Claire has taken over his coaching duties part-time, fitting it in around her full-time job. As she isn't an AIS coach, Tallent has to pay for her to travel to events.
Tallent said the early morning and evening training sessions were far from ideal. He felt if Athletics Australia didn't appoint a full-time coach it would be putting that recent success in jeopardy.
Vallance agreed, and was critical of Athletics Australia's desire to destroy a proven program.
''It's a massive blow. The race walking event group has won 50 per cent of their medals of the last three Olympic cycles,'' he said.
''We may have had an absolute golden era in the men's events, but the avenue to the high-performance system has now been closed,'' Vallance said.
''We were having no problem filling our team with members of high-quality, A-standard athletes; we were having very, very little problem transitioning our junior team into our senior team.
''It makes no sense to just shut it down and only support people for what they've done because it was the system that brought them in and put them up to that level.''
Hollingsworth could not be contacted by The Canberra Times on Monday. Several AIS athletes confirmed their future remained uncertain as they await his verdict.
Rumours suggest a move towards a four-tier system with world rankings determining what level of funding each athlete gets.
The new system will be introduced on May 1.